I really do not understand why the unionists of public and municipality sector staged a protest in downtown Athens and a 48-hour strike. Didn’t they hear Prime Minister Antonis Samaras announcing on Tuesday a couple of measures to provide relief to society with resources coming from the primary surplus of 2.9 billion euro? I bet, they did but it looks as if their problems are deeper and have not much to do with the generously distributed social dividends. Thousands of civil servants and municipality workers will be laid-off this year and probably also in the year/s after.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras told us yesterday that “by 2020″ we will have overcome the economic crisis.
This sounds good and challenging and intriguing, especially when you are without a job and income of any kind. The obvious question that will burn your lips is “How will I survive until 2020?” A question that remains unanswered as the PM did not reveal the secret of happy living without spending a single euro.
However not all Greeks are unemployed. Jobless Greeks are just a 27% of the total labor population that is more than one-fourth but less than one-third. Then, there is this blessed class of laborers working for 500-1,000 euro per month. Some of them await several months to receive their salary. Will they be able to survive until 2020?
Growing cafeterias & souvlaki diners
I was reading the other day that one in two small and medium enterprises were planning to close down within 2014. I do not know, if this is true but true is also that our neighborhood and suburb squares have been filled up with cafes and souvlaki diners. The entrepreneurial spirit of modern and crisis-ridden Greek seems to be clear: no matter how deep the crisis, the Greek will always enjoy a coffee, a cheap dinner with souvlaki, pita, kebab and beer. And sauce.
So? Will Greece turn into a country growing souvlaki and cafe entrepreneurs? Possibly. At least, for now. For the time being, so to say.
A question that has to be asked is: what should a jobless do, if he happens to have some savings? Spend the money to cover his needs while waiting for the crisis to end in 2020 or invest the money into a business where people can flock in to buy something not expensive?
Ever since 2010, when the country hit the ground and sought the aid of the international Monetary Fund, I saw quite some small businesses open and close after one year.
But that’s the risk of investment based on wrong factors and assumptions, I suppose. Furthermore, Greek entrepreneurs could eventually need a decade or even longer to understand and apply the tools of modern marketing.
Mistakes Greek entrepreneurs make
There are two major mistakes Greek must-be entrepreneurs make: a) they do copy-paste successful ideas and b) they have no entrepreneurship experience.
The majority of modern Greek entrepreneurs are that they have spent the most of their working life as employees and they are about to be self-employed out of need. Out of lack of offered vacancies.
The economic crisis kicked more than 1, 3 million people out there, on the streets. People lost their jobs, their income, the faith to society and the meaning in life. After four years of harsh austerity policies and loan agreements that got us on our knees, now “it’s time to do something.”
And something is indeed being done. Something is moving. Businesses open here and there, and job opening are posted. Yet mostly in the IT sector.
Suddenly a new problem arises. I hear of employers having difficulties to get the ideal candidate, despite the fact that they receive more than 100 Resumes for a single job vacancy.
Why? Because Greece is suffering from brain drain. Many people, good and qualified people in the productive age of 25-40, have left Greece during the years of the crisis. Behind are left qualified people with no working experience and those with working experience who may have missed the train of a continuously developing and expanding industry. And worse than this: this second group of laborers is above 40 years old.
Those above 40 who have spent most of their working life as employees face an additional difficulty to start their own business. The incredible load of social contributions. For example those who entered labor insurance before 1993, can be forced to pay more than 500 euro per month as they will change the social security into the entrepreneurs’ fund. Adding 26% taxation from the first euro and no tax free amount, how much money will the entrepreneur need to get in revenues to come up for contributions and taxes?
KTG has often published posted about the fact that “social contributions and over taxation are killing Greek entrepreneurship”. The frequent changes in the taxation system give the aspiring businessmen the final blow.
A friend of mine, 39, an IT man with his own company is about to leave the country, after the economic crisis caused the financial collapse of his clients and left him with a mountain of debts. He sees no future here, not for the time being.
Start-ups on the rise
The new frenzy among those below 35 is the start-up sector. Hundreds of young, educated, qualified, capable and ambitious Greeks rush from seminars and workshops to meetings with mentors, from conference hall to conference hall, weekend in and weekend out, connecting with people, pitching their ideas and desperately trying to secure funding. Then without funding and a thorough business plan any start-up can remain parked at the famous ‘home garage’.
The start-up sector is tough and highly competitive and I have read that only 1 in 20 start-ups manage to get funding. But this new fruit growing on Greek soil has developed a new industry and that is the sector of “start-up consulting”.
I cannot tell you how successful this consulting is and how successful Greek start-ups are. “There are not trustworthy data” I was told when I recently asked for some data, meaning there have been no studies and surveys on the issue. I also have no idea, if start-ups are reserved for those below 35 or if older generations try to jump in.
There is also another group of unemployed: the young ones, aged 20-35, with no IT qualifications but studies in other faculties. Among those aged 15-24 unemployment is at 58%, among 25-34 at 30%. Young people who are anxious they might never get a job. Because once the crisis is more or less over they would be too old and will have no working experience.
As there are no statistics, my observation comes to the conclusion that:
1/3 of these young people sit together brainstorming and trying to “set up something” without specific goals and targets and entrepreneurship knowledge.
1/3 has the luck that an entrepreneur parent goes into retirement and the company is being transferred on the name of the young unemployed.
1/3 has occasionally some kind of short term and bad paid job of 300-400 euro and lives in their parents’ home. The money is enough to cover very private expenses like going out and entertainment.
And yet, something is moving. The daughter of a friend, a 29-year-old accountant, finally got a job after four full years of unemployment. Monthly salary: 580 euro gross. Because she has not previous working experience and therefore she got hired on the minimum wage. But that’s a start after all these years and months of economic depression and helplessness.
PS A positive atmosphere? It could be just the spring and the smiling sun
This post is based on observations in my close and broader social environment and some media/blogs articles.